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Slayings Spread Fear at N.M. Resort

July 17, 2002 GMT

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TAOS, N.M. (AP) _ Authorities are warning residents to be careful following the slayings of two women at their homes in less than a week.

Police said both women lived alone near Taos, a resort in the northern New Mexico mountains. Prosecutor Donald Gallegos issued a warning Monday to people in the area, especially single women.

``I can’t get my female employees to stay at work past 5 p.m.,″ Susan Backus, owner of the Big Sun folk art gift shop, said Tuesday. ``They don’t want to be out at night. They’re afraid they’ll get stabbed.″

Leanne Martinez, 22, was found dead in her mobile home Sunday evening. Investigators believe she was killed earlier that day.

State police Lt. Rob Shilling said Martinez’s car was found Wednesday in Albuquerque, about 140 miles away. He said an arrest warrant had been issued for Richard Fresquez, 23, for unlawfully taking the car and for parole violation.

On July 9, deputies found Marioara Shand, 38, stabbed to death in her apartment in nearby Ranchos de Taos.

``These events have been scary,″ said Angelina Vigil, 16, a sales clerk at a T-shirt shop. ``I grew up here and have been raised to not walk anywhere alone at night and watch over my shoulder. For me, to think that someone from this town is capable of such acts is unbelievable. The more I think about it, the more it worries me.″

Bernadine Herrera, who manages a gift shop, said she has a hard time believing such things are happening in her hometown.

``Forty years ago, you could leave your doors open and nothing would happen,″ she said. ``These days you have to lock everything because God knows what’ll happen.″